2015 – HVC School Performance Table measure
The Government’s school performance tables are one way in which parents are given information about schools. In recent years the government has moved to exclude certain qualifications from counting towards the performance tables. Although schools have remained ‘free’ to offer the curriculum that best suits their students, they have effectively been penalised if that curriculum does not fit a centralised view of what is best.
In the summer of 2015, 67% of Hope Valley College students gained 5 good GCSEs including GCSE English (a combined language and literature qualification) and GCSE Maths. That is a fact. The students have those certificates to prove it. However, most of those students also gained a Certificate (popularly known as iGCSE) in English Literature. This is an additional qualification, a rigorous exam-only course which helps prepare students for A Level type study. There was no overlap with the combined English GCSE qualification students sat but because the government have chosen to discount this combination of qualifications, the most recent government school performance tables published in October2015/January 2016 say that only 8% of Hope Valley College students gained 5 good GCSEs including English and Maths. All students who received both English results have had no English qualification counted in the performance tables. Had we not entered students for the extra, academically rigorous, iGCSE in English literature then our performance table result would have been 67%! We formally logged a complaint with the Department for Education, professional associations and our local MP. The reply in all cases was that while they had some sympathy for our situation the ‘rules’ are not being changed.
A number of schools nationally have fallen foul of the same ‘rules’, including Harrow School, the internationally renowned independent school in London – who, according to the same government school performance tables, in 2015 had 0% of their students achieving 5 good GCSEs including English and maths!
We do not anticipate any negative implications from this debacle as long as parents and our local community recognise that, despite the well-meaning efforts of the government to “help” parents with their decision over their choice for their secondary school for their child, in the case of the rules behind school performance tables selective information is probably not helpful.
2016 – HVC School Performance Table measure
In 2016 the Government has dropped the 5 x GCSE A*-C including English and maths for a range of alternative measures including Attainment 8 and Progress 8. An Attainment 8 score is the average point score for all students in a school based on 8 Government preferred qualification grades (with English and maths double counted). Progress 8 is the difference between the Attainment 8 score for each student and the average Attainment 8 score for students nationally with the same English and maths Key Stage 2 score (from Y6 in primary school).
As the name suggests, Progress 8 shows how well students progress in secondary school regardless of their starting point. A Progress 8 score equal or greater than zero is “Good” because it means students, regardless of their starting points, make good or better progress compared with similar students nationally.
In the summer of 2016, 69% of Hope Valley College students gained 5 good GCSEs including GCSE English (a combined language and literature qualification) and GCSE maths (up 3% on last year). 76% of students achieved A*-C in both English and maths (up 7% on last year). From our 140 students in Year 11, 137 sat the combined GCSE in English (3 students sat GCSE English Language out of parental choice). 88 students also sat the academically rigorous additional iGCSE in English literature to help them prepare them for A’ level study. In the combined English, 78% achieved grades A*-C, 34% achieving A*/A. In the English literature iGCSE, 98% achieved A*-C, with 56% achieving A*/A grades.
Whilst the 2016 DfE rules allows for the combined GCSE English to be double counted for Attainment 8 and Progress 8 scores. In addition, schools with students taking separate English language GCSE and English literature GCSE can put forward each student’s best English grade to be double counted in the performance tables. However, in order to prevent schools from only entering students for one and not both types of English, a single English language GCSE or single English literature GCSE will NOT be double counted if only one is taken without the other. Whilst this DfE rule has been made with the best intentions of stopping schools from “cherry-picking” qualifications, it has unintentionally affected schools like Hope Valley College and Harrow School because its English scores are not going to be double counted because the DfE did not envisage students doing the combined English and the iGCSE in English Literature. Perversely, therefore, the College’s published Progress 8 measure would be significantly higher had students not been entered for the additional iGCSE qualification. Knowing this, the reason the College still entered students for the additional iGCSE rather than dropping it to avoid the negative impact on our school performance measure was because our students had already studied for one year towards the qualification and it was therefore not in the individual students’ best interests, not to enter them.
We have again lodged a complaint with the DfE and requested that the DfE simply “ignore” our fantastic iGCSE English literature results to allow our combined English score to be double counted and therefore make our Progress 8 score less meaningless for parents. Our request has been turned down.
Thankfully, the problem resolves itself from 2017 as our current Year 11 onwards will be sitting the new (graded 1-9) English language and literature GCSE specifications (the combined English GCSE ends) so there will not be any further ambiguity with schools performance tables.
For more information on this matter, please contact Paul Dearden, Deputy Principal.